The Franklin County Volunteer Guardian Program was created in January 1994 to match volunteers with mentally disabled adults. The program involves people who volunteer as guardians to clients who have no money, family or support system to help them make medical and legal decisions.
Because the volunteer guardians legally adopt their wards, they must go through an extensive and vigorous process of interviews and attend a basic guardian training. In addition, they receive assistance from program staff and volunteer attorneys from the Columbus Bar Association. Since its inception in 1994, there have been more than 86 volunteer guardians in the program.
Volunteers visit wards to make sure that a good quality of life is maintained. Since volunteers legally adopt these disabled adults, some volunteers make the decisions involving major health issues. Currently, there are 50 active guardians, with some handling more than one case.
The impact of the guardian volunteers can be measured in a variety of ways. Many disabled adults have increased their mobility and activity because of the support and encouragement they receive from volunteers. Their quality of life is raised because people who were once without family or friends now have a guardian who can be a little of both.
The program is funded by a coalition of agencies including the county court system and local county administration.